The Dow Tanks 167 Points as JC Penney Explodes in After-Hours Trading

Chalk up a bloodbath of losses for the market today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) took a pounding from the get-go this morning, as earnings season's tail end couldn't help the blue chip index avoid a big drop. By the time the closing bell sounded, the Dow had fallen 167 points, or 1%, to drop far below its recently set highs. Only today's big earnings winner, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO  ) , helped the index avoid worse losses with a big day. Around the market, Sprint's (NYSE: S  ) stock managed a surprisingly strong outing despite the market's fall, while JC Penney's (NYSE: JCP  ) stock took a fall during the day, but exploded in after-hours trading following its earnings release. Let's take a walk through the big movers you need to know.

Is Cisco in trouble overseas?
Cisco's been having a hard time with revenue and earnings as of late, particularly around emerging markets, which have weighed down this tech company's attempts at a turnaround. The firm's not quite that far along just yet, but it did impress investors today with lower-than-expected profit and sales drops in beating Wall Street's expectations on the top and bottom lines. That helped Cisco roar to the top of the Dow with a 6% jump; but don't get on board the bandwagon that quickly. Cisco's still facing a mountain of challenges ahead, and it all starts with emerging markets. Revenue from those markets fell 13% in its most-recent quarter. Expected demand increases in Europe and the U.S. in the near future should help Cisco pave the way to better days -- especially with the company's investments into the enterprise cloud market and the Internet of Things. Make no mistake about it, however -- paring sales losses in up-and-coming markets such as China and India is a pivotal need for this company's long-term prospects.

Speaking of the long term, Sprint is hoping it can save its own long-term picture, as the company's still angling for a merger with wireless rival T-Mobile (NYSE: TMUS  ) . Of course, any potential merger's still a long shot in regulatory terms, particularly after regulators shut down larger rival AT&T's (NYSE: T  ) attempts to acquire T-Mobile's U.S. arm back in 2011. Considering that T-Mobile added more than 4 million new subscribers last year, the company's an attractive target for the challenged Sprint.

Today, however, news was released that regulators at the FCC may be more divided about a takeover possibility than once thought, injecting hope into Wall Street and Sprint's stock today by sending shares up 6%. Still, Sprint's far behind AT&T and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , the largest wireless provider in the U.S. Even if the company miraculously breezed by regulators and managed to secure a deal, Sprint's long-term picture is still fuzzy. Exercise caution around this stock's future, especially considering that Verizon and AT&T have managed much stronger overall net subscriber growth as of late.

JC Penney has been the big story of the afternoon, as this stock, which fell 2.8% through the trading day, has exploded for a 19% jump in after-hours trading. While JC Penney's earnings continue to drop, the company's loss closed to smaller than analysts had expected. Even more optimistic, the firm's sales jumped by 6.3% in the first quarter. Perhaps most tellingly, the beleaguered retailer's same-store sales grew by 6.2%, a huge breath of fresh air after that same tally plunged by 16% year over year in 2013's first quarter. JC Penney's move back to appealing toward its core middle-class customer segment seems to have paid off in the first quarter, but it's up to the retailer to show it can raise profits, as well, not just revenue. While JC Penney expects improving gross margins through the end of the year, this company's turnaround is only just showing its first signs of success.

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